The Ballad of Donovan Drayton

He spent five years in jail awaiting trial. Call it justice, Queens-style.

The Ballad of Donovan Drayton

On the morning of October 1, 2007, Donovan Drayton was a 19-year-old kid with serious ambitions of following his father, Ronny, into the music business. The elder Drayton was an accomplished guitarist who has performed with the likes of Parliament Funkadelic, the Chambers Brothers, and Wilson Pickett. Donovan was brought up in a Jamaica, Queens, house crammed with instruments and the constant hum of creativity.

Though he attended three high schools without earning a degree, Donovan had landed a coveted internship with Bad Boy Records, the label founded by Sean "P. Diddy" Combs. "That opportunity would have catapulted me into the future," he says. "I was trying to follow in my father's footsteps."

He wasn't a saint. He smoked weed and sold a little from time to time. But he had no criminal record, and was generally considered a pretty good kid.

Donovan and Ronny Drayton on the stoop outside their Queens home
By Caleb Ferguson
Donovan and Ronny Drayton on the stoop outside their Queens home
Dwight Bent was fatally shot outside this home in Jamaica, Queens.
By Caleb Ferguson
Dwight Bent was fatally shot outside this home in Jamaica, Queens.

He was about to face the most difficult test of his young life, in a case that raises troubling questions both about the length of pretrial detention, and the lengths that prosecutors in Queens will go to obtain a conviction.

The weather that day was overcast but dry. Drayton had spent the previous evening at a barbecue with a girl who then stayed the night. About 8:30 a.m., he got a call from Craig Glover, who wanted to score some weed. Glover would be coming over with a friend, Jason White.

The 22-year-old Glover was unemployed, known around the 115th Road neighborhood as a stick-up artist. A tattoo on one hand read "Survival Through Mayhem." Another on his neck seemed to state his personal mantra: "Get Money." He and White, also 22, were members of a gang known as the Set Trip Mafia.

Drayton knew the men, but not well. They arrived in a red Hyundai, White behind the wheel. They picked up Drayton, navigating the flat landscape of postwar single-family homes and frayed business districts, checkered with auto body joints, pawn shops, and liquor stores. Their supposed quest: to see someone who owed Glover money.

White dropped off Glover and Drayton at a house at 143-36 110th Avenue, then left, ostensibly to buy rolling papers. They found themselves in front of a tattered two-story home with a rust-flecked iron gate, a sad little dirt lawn, and a white security door.

Drayton leaned against a car and started rolling a blunt. At that point—and this is where the contradictory stories begin—two other men approached the house, coming from the direction of the local bodega: Dwight Bent, 30, and Anthony "Ant" Wright, 27.

Bent was the son of a hospital food service worker. He was unemployed and on probation for selling drugs. He had 10 bags of marijuana on him. Wright, tattooed with the word "Grumpy," sold weed from the 110th Avenue house, which doubled as an unlicensed day care center.

At that moment, Wright's sister, Felicia Johnson, was inside looking after four children.

When Wright saw Glover holding a gun, he ran inside the house and locked the door, leaving Bent stuck outside. He ran upstairs and grabbed an AK-47 assault rifle, a gift from Bent to protect their drug stash. Wright pointed the rifle out the window. Below, Glover had a gun out and was yelling at him to come downstairs.

Wright fired at the curb across the street, hoping to scare Glover away. Instead, Glover opened up on Bent, firing several shots.

Glover and Drayton ran to Jason White waiting in the red Hyundai. The trio fled.

Wright's mother, Sandra Sumpter, later told cops that she was in her room with a migraine that morning. She heard banging noises and then her son yell, "Ma, call 911. Someone is robbing Dwight." Then she heard shots.

It took her several tries to reach a 911 operator. She looked down the stairs and saw Bent bleeding on the floor, her son shouting, "Don't die on me!"

After hearing the shots, Joe Macchia, a phys-ed teacher at PS 160 down the block, gathered his students from the playground and hurried them into the school. That's when he saw two men fleeing.

Wright first hid his rifle in a closet and ran downstairs to Bent's side. Police Officer Joseph Zummo, the first cop on the scene, testified that Wright "was crying and kind of frantic. He was clenching the gentleman lying on the floor with his arms around his shoulders and body."

Bent was shot multiple times in the chest and legs. The fatal bullet entered his shoulder and traveled across his chest, striking both heart and lungs.

His mother, Greta Bent, later testified that she got the call from her daughter. "She said come to the hospital. I walked in and saw the priest. I said, 'Where is Dwight?' And the priest said, 'Ms. Bent, do not go in that room.'

"He walked in that room with me. I saw my son and he was in a body bag. I unzipped the bag. I ran my hand through his hair and then I fell to the ground."

Detectives found shell casings at the crime scene. Hidden in Wright's attic closet was the AK-47, about 80 rounds of mixed ammunition (including .45 caliber bullets), a scale, and $1,320 in cash.

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6 comments
nate.mims
nate.mims

If it were in my family, I would certainly want the people who shot and killed my relative locked up.  But I wouldn't want everyone they are assosicated with to be in jail too. 

Then again, there are members of my family that I think would deserve to be killed, particularly those who decided to sell drugs out of a day care center.  I would have pushed to have them kicked out of my family which would have left them open for an attack like this.  We don't believe in drug transactions around children and have very stiff penalties for that in my family.

nate.mims
nate.mims

DJ Nitti -

I understand how it can be unquestionable that he should have gone to the police right away, however when you consider that the actual shooters in the case were members of a gang, which had other members who weren't there, he would in essence have been signing his death sentence.  It's easy to say he should have done this or that, however unless you are in a situation like that, it's hard to know what's best to do.  Plus, if he had gone to the police, and they didn't arrest White or Glover right away, those two know that by silencing him then they get to walk.  All things considered, it's a really tough spot to be in and I for one, would not have gone to the police right away either. 

DJ NITTI
DJ NITTI

I get what you're saying and that's probably why most people dont hang out with gangbangers in the first place. I mean it's a cute story and all, the innocent good boy just happened to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time with some bad boys and doesnt know what was happening, but we all know better than that. I grew up in the hood and I knew that if I hung out gangbangers the chances of getting into trouble were exponentially greater than if I hung out with the neighborhood basketball players. Bottom line is that he was part of a group that shot and killed a man. If the victim was your family member you'd probably want them all prosecuted. He got off lucky and I hope he can make the most of it and stays out if trouble in the future but he's extremely lucky cause as far as I'm concerned he's an accessory to murder.

roundelay78
roundelay78

@DJ NITTI  

Extremely lucky how?  Being dumb enough to hang out with some guys he barely knew shouldn't have gotten him locked up that long in the first place, especially when the real murderer lied about Drayton to save his own behind. He wasn't the killer, so he shouldn't have been locked up in the first place,because it wasn't his fault.  And he wasn't a gang member, so he was hardly "part" of their group, as you put it.  Plus he admitted to not even knowing all that mess was going to go down. Yeah, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but losing five years of his life in jail for a crime he didn't coit? Not a doggone thing "lucky" about that.

DJ NITTI
DJ NITTI

I'm usually pretty liberal on these issues but it's really hard to be sympathetic towards someone that was with a group of guys that killed someone and didn't immediately go to the police to report it. I get that he was scared for his safety but that's no excuse. If the purpose of the story is to highlight how long these cases take to go through the legal system, I agree that's wrong and should be addressed but if I were on that jury I'm not sure I would let him off with just a gun charge. At the end if the day someone is dead and not only did this guy admit to having a gun but also shooting it during the assault and didn't come forward until he was facing serious jail time. With that being said I do think the DAs abuse their power by giving what they know are guilty parties extremely lenient sentences in exchange for cooperation to find less culpable defendants guilty and that is not only wrong but dangerous, especially when they allow dangerous individuals to get out of jail to commit more crimes. Overall the five years Donovan did seem justified if not lenient for his involvement in a murder.

DJ NITTI
DJ NITTI

I'm usually pretty liberal on these issues but it's really hard to be sympathetic towards someone that was with a group of guys that killed someone and didn't immediately go to the police to report it. I get that he was scared for his safety but that's no excuse. If the purpose of the story is to highlight how long these cases take to go through the legal system, I agree that's wrong and should be addressed but if I were on that jury I'm not sure I would let him off with just a gun charge. At the end if the day someone is dead and not only did this guy admit to having a gun but also shooting it during the assault and didn't come forward until he was facing serious jail time. With that being said I do think the DAs abuse their power by giving what they know are guilty parties extremely lenient sentences in exchange for cooperation to find less culpable defendants guilty and that is not only wrong but dangerous, especially when they allow dangerous individuals to get out of jail to commit more crimes. Overall the five years Donovan did seem justified if not lenient for his involvement in a murder.

 
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